OSE Children In Europe


All 89 OSE children included in the brief history and statistical survey on this Web site endured hardships stemming from the Holocaust. They were discriminated against in their schools and every day life, then were separated from parents and siblings, when they were forced to flee their homes, facing life-threatening dangers from the Nazis. They were sheltered for various lengths of time in the French OSE homes from which many secured passage to the U.S in 1941and 1942.

However, 24 of the group, some 26 percent, were trapped in Europe after the Nazis overran all of France, including the previously Unoccupied Zone where the OSE homes were located after June 1940. The children remained in the homes until it became unsafe for them to stay. Then the OSE, working with the French Underground, the Maquis, guided OSE children from place to place, securing false identity papers to hide who they were.

Boys ran away from Chateau Montintin when local police warned of an impending raid targeting all 16-year-old boys. Several boys escaped during the police raid of Chateau Charbannes. One who did not, spent three years incarcerated in various concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau, from where he was liberated in 1945.

Another who was caught was a girl who was arrested at the OSE home, Mas' Jambot. She was taken to the transit camp of Nexon, from which she miraculously escaped. There was no miracle for her brother whom she had found there. He was deported and murdered at Auschwitz.

There was no warning of the major raid of Chateau de le Couret on August 29, 1942, mentioned in the book, Shattered Crystals. Three residents happened to be away from the Chateau at the time. One wrote in her Album biography that 45 girls were arrested at le Couret and taken to the transit camp of Nexon, and then to Drancy outside of Paris; from there they were deported to Auschwitz.

Once they left the OSE homes, the children moved around a great deal. A number spent some time hidden on French farms and in convents. One girl spent the entire time on a single farm and remains close to her family "until now." Her experience was unusual. The reason children were removed from farms or French homes where they were sheltered was not necessarily due to their being unwelcome, but more likely because it became dangerous for them to remain.

When there was no place else, they hid in the forest and the mountains. One boy who tried to escape to Switzerland-he had already failed to get into Spain-was turned back at the border. Escape had to be accomplished by walking over the Alps and crossing into Switzerland at a point where there were no border posts or guards.

Six of the 24 did eventually manage to cross into Switzerland. A girl who was part of a group of two adults and five children who succeeded recalled that they "made it with luck, endurance and hardship…after walking 18 hours non-stop."

The Underground secured work for older girls and boys. Some did farm work. One labored on a road gang. One girl became a companion to a French lady; a second worked as a maid, and a third as a dressmaker. One boy joined the Free French Army, and a number worked for the Maquis, including a girl who said she "gathered information from the Germans and helped form an escape route for Jews into Switzerland."

Two girls renewed their ties with the OSE after the war. One went to the OSE in Paris where she taught French to other surviving OSE children at Chateau de Ferriere. The second married and she and her husband became OSE counselors at a reopened OSE home for Holocaust survivors from Buchenwald.

Shattered Crystals Home Page